How to Retain Youth Workers

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The article in November regarding the work force crisis [“This Just In: Good Help is Hard to Find”] raises interesting points about recruiting new youth workers. The real challenge is that organizations need to look at why so many of their entry-level workers leave.

We have come to view entry-level worker turnover as part of the cost of doing business, and we just ask our human resources people to keep the flow of recruits coming. However, as was noted, the flow rate which was possible at one time is now more problematic. Increasingly, we must find ways to hold on to the good people we have.

This is a simple yet complex problem. It is simple in that as human service professionals, we should know how to gain respect, create loyalty and operate in an inclusive manner. Yet too often we fail to implement that which we know, or fail to implement it consistently. It’s far too simple to say that the problem is about inadequate salaries.

Our ability to hire and retain qualified staff will separate the organizations that thrive from the organizations that merely survive. We could begin by establishing retention goals for our organizations, then having an action plan consistent with those goals and holding managers accountable to achieve those goals. From there we can put a retention plan in place for every employee – one which emphasizes growth, development and the achievement of personal dreams and goals.

We can do a better job of retaining staff. There are two prerequisites: Becoming more intentional about retention must be an organizational priority. And [we must] acknowledge the cost of turnover to our organizations in financial and non-financial terms. Otherwise, any retention plan will seem too expensive.

Larry Wenger


Workforce Performance Group

Newtown, Pa.